Taiyaki is a golden fish-shaped cake, it's crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and filled with sweet red bean paste. This well-loved sweet doesn't only have to be enjoyed at Japanese street vendors, make it in your own kitchen with this delicious recipe!
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What is Taiyaki?
Taiyaki is a type of "wagashi" (和菓子) Japanese sweet. A waffle-like batter is poured into a sea bream (tai) shaped mold and filled with a sweet adzuki red bean paste called "anko".
This iconic sweet is well loved by everyone in Japan. Nowadays, taiyaki are sold in a variety of shapes and sizes. The fillings are not only limited to sweet red bean paste, but also cream, cheese, matcha, chocolate, and many other popular flavors.
History of Taiyaki
According to the "Encyclopedia of Food Origins," taiyaki was first created by Seijiro Kanbe, the first owner of a shop named "Naniwaya Honten", which was founded in 1909.
During the Meiji era (1868-1912), he started selling a type of cake called "imagawayaki". Imagawayaki is a thick, pancake-looking sweet filled with red bean paste.
Unfortunately, his imagawayaki was not popular at all, so he started to create different shapes using the same ingredients. In fact, it is said that the first ever shape was turtle, not fish! But after some trial and error, the current shape of the "tai" sea bream sold the best.
Sea bream is a common fish in modern days, but back then, this wasn't the case. In fact, sea bream was rarely eaten by regular people back then, it was considered a luxury food and you were lucky if you had a chance to eat it. Because of taiyaki's shape, regular people could enjoy the luck and luxury brought from eating sea bream!
As per usual, there are always funny discussions in Japan concerning food, let me tell you about the controversial debate that surrounded taiyaki.
There was once a controversy involving literary scholars, now cited as the "Taiyaki controversy", about whether or not the tail part should be filled with red bean paste. It all started when a novelist, Tsuruo Ando, wrote a story in the newspaper stating that "taiyaki is more delicious when it is filled with red bean paste up to the tail".
That statement set taiyaki fundamentalists off! Because originally, the tail was supposed to be like a handle to pick up and hold, so there was no paste in the part. In the end, there were an equal amount of pros and cons so an agreement was never reached.
In addition to this, people often argue whether you should eat from the head or the tail first. What do you think?
Kids love taiyaki
Kids love taiyaki not only because of the charming look, but also the taste. I've always loved it too!
In fact, you can see how popular it is by the fact that song called "Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun" (Swim! Taiyaki) released in 1975 has sold more than 4.5 million copies on hard CD. Even now, this is the kind of a song that every Japanese person knows off by heart.
FYI, the song is about a life of taiyaki.
Which taiyaki maker to buy?
There are roughly three types of taiyaki maker available for home use. I will explain pros and cons for all of them so that you can choose the most suitable one for you!
Iron taiyaki maker
This is the most similar to what taiyaki shops use. It is an iron plate with a taiyaki mold on it and a long handle. You place the mold over the stove, they should work with both gas or electric stoves.
It is compact enough to cook two taiyakis at a time. The thick ironware allows for slow cooking and allows the crust to become crispy. For a crisp, well defined Taiyaki shape, I highly recommend this type.
One of the biggest cons would be the fact it's harder to handle compared to the ones below.
I use this type when I make the recipe! You can purchase one here on Amazon.
Fluoroplastic coated taiyaki maker
Similar in shape to the iron one, but made of aluminum alloy and coated with fluoroplastic. It prevents the dough from sticking to the pan, so it is definitely easier to handle. They're also lighter and a little cheaper.
One of the cons is taiyaki tend to be paler than the ones with iron.
You can purchase one on Amazon here.
Electric Taiyaki Cooker
This is the easiest way. It is basically taiyaki version of a waffle maker. It doesn't even use fire, so you can have fun making it with your kids.
However, taiyaki itself will be very soft and almost impossible to make it crispy like the ones with iron maker.
You can purchase it on Amazon here.
Tips and tricks to make shop quality taiyaki at home
As you can imagine, taiyaki is not the easiest Japanese sweets to make, in fact, it could be tricky really.
So I'm going to list tips and tricks to use when you want to make taiyaki at home!
Mix the batter well
When you make batter, it is important to sift flour to the water and mix carefully until there are no lumps, in order to make a beautiful smooth taiyaki batter.
If you can strain the mixture, that would be perfect!
Lightly grease the mold
For a beautiful finish, you should lightly grease your mold. You want it to be evenly greased too, and the best way to do this is to rub a small amount of vegetable oil over the mold using a paper towel.
The paper towel will also absorb any excess oil which will prevent spots on your taiyaki, you want a smooth and golden surface.
Make sure to get into all the nooks and crevices for the best results!
Fill the mold about one-third at first
The ideal amount of taiyaki batter to be poured into a taiyaki mold is about one-third of the mold. For me, this is about 1 tbsp of batter for each side of each taiyaki.
The amount of batter you use can alter the texture, so it's important to be careful when you pour the batter into mold.
It's okay to go outside the lines
You don't need to be a perfectionist when it comes to filling the mold. Adding the batter quickly and spreading it around evenly is more important than keeping within the lines.
I also find that spreading some batter around the outside of the edges stops it from falling out of the mold when you flip it.
Once it's cooked, you can neaten the edges with kitchen scissors anyway.
Be careful about the amount of filling
If there is too much, the paste may burst out of the taiyaki and become sticky. If there is too little, the tastiest part of the taiyaki will be smaller and smaller, so it is important to put the right amount into the taiyaki batter.
In my recipe, I put 40g of anko paste in each taiyaki.
Divide the filling in advance
Measuring out each portion of filling in advance makes a less stressful cooking experience.
I roll my anko into 6 cylinders, each 40g. You can also check the size compared to the mold so that you can see if the anko fits in easily.
If you're using runny fillings like Nutella or custard, you could separate two portions at a time into small bowls.
Sealing the taiyaki
To seal the top and bottom halves together, we drizzle some batter over the filling before closing the mold. This will "glue" each side together.
Do not cook with high heat
The ideal heat to cook taiyaki is low to medium-low heat, because if the heat is too high, the surface may be burned but the inside may not be cooked through.
Cooking patiently is also a key!
I hope you enjoy making this classic street food sweet in your own kitchen!Print